Sunday, 18 May 2014

Cabbage Leaves & Oblivion

I'd heard so many people talk about having a baby being like running a marathon that I thought I'd run one before I became a mother to find out. Obviously that's not the whole reason I ran the London Marathon. I also wanted a medal. I'd also made a pledge with my 15 year old self that I would run it before I was 30 and as my 29 year old self kept reminding me that didn't leave much time. (My 29 year old self was a bit pushy for achievement and self actualisation.)

Anyway, I digress. What I realised soon after giving birth is that labour is not when the marathon begins. If anything, labour and birth is like the end of the marathon; running down Pall Mall with everyone cheering you on and telling you how strong you are and how well you're doing. Everyone coming to visit the baby immediately after the birth is like all the photos after, holding the medal or the well deserved tub of Carte D'or ice cream. Having a baby is a reverse marathon. After all of that excitement and glory has subsided, and each member of the family goes off with enough photographic evidence of your success to keep them in screensavers until 2026, that is when the marathon truly starts. That is where the isolation of those long training runs sets in, where hardly anyone is cheering on the sidelines. Everyone, quite rightly, wants to give you time to settle in and nest and become a family, but that is when you start to know what you're really made of.

I've always been an achiever, I think I've always needed it to validate my existence. I have a certificate, therefore I am. But babies couldn't give a shit. Well...they do give a shit. Plenty, but everything you thought you knew about work and reward fades into the pages of your life's history once your child arrives. For a start, there's feeding them. I was not prepared for that experience. Absolutely not. The milk coming in. It was insane and intense and it hurt. Now for a woman that didn't want or feel the need for any pain relief during labour that means something. I went from looking like an Amazonian milk goddess one moment to a wonky milk maid that had seriously asymmetric teats the next. Not having a particularly big chest anyway, I was astounded to see my ballooning bazongas. In fact, it was at this time, around day 3 after having my son that my postpartum psychosis heaven and hell began. 

I spent the next 3 days with my udders permanently covered in savoy cabbage leaves (refrigerated for her pleasure!) and could regularly been seen sporting a very fetching tits-out-of-the-nightie look. I'm sure they'll be featuring that in Vogue soon. My hormones were having a 90s rave and I was not so much invited, as invaded by some seriously drugged squatters. I had various visits from midwives, but I became increasingly aware that something wasn't quite right with me, as I was saying things like "I mean they call it the baby blues, but this feels more like oblivion" and "I feel like a cosmic cow". Yes, definitely the sign that something was going somewhat askew. These comments were made during a conversation with a midwife on a home visit. I say a conversation, it was just me talking. Non stop. For TWO HOURS. This, my friends, was one of my first hyper manic episodes, the first of many that would grow in intensity, darkness and pain. 

It's hard to look back on that time, the week after my son was born and assess what was "normal". I was falling into a psychosis black hole on the one hand, but on the other hand I was having the most incredible time feeding and bonding with my baby and working out how to function in this brave new world. 

I've never ever gone through such intense emotions, feelings and physical sensations and this was just the beginning of being a parent. Holy shit balls! If that's the beginning what's the rest like?

Love and nipple cream,
Mutha Courage X

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